Reef Check Successes

Reef Check carried out the first global survey of coral reefs in 1997. The results provided the first scientific evidence of the global extent of the coral reef crisis. Subsequent surveys of hundreds of reefs by thousands of volunteer divers each year have documented a dramatic decline in coral reef health, a decline our teams of citizen scientists are actively trying to combat. In 2005, our California program was launched to track the health of rocky reefs along the state's entire coastline.

Achievements in Research

Global Reef Tracker

Survey results from both our California rocky reef and tropical coral reef monitoring programs are available on our Google Earth-based online database, the Global Reef Tracker. Visit the database to view reef health information collected during over 10,000 surveys from countries across the globe.

  • Report & Publications

    Reports & Publications

    Visit our Publications page to download Reef Check's reports and peer-reviewed journal and technical reports featuring Reef Check data.

    In 2014, Reef Check's California program published a summary of its first six years of data collection, documenting dramatic declines in fish populations on rocky reefs along the California coast since the 1970s. The report shows that the public-private partnership between Reef Check and the state provides a cost-effective solution to track changes in the marine environment in a state with a 1000-mile long coast, rough seas, great white sharks and limited government staff available to carry out underwater surveys.

Achievements in Education

  • Kids Programs

    Educational children's programs are carried out throughout the world, including the "Rainforest to Reef" program in Malaysia for school children and the REEFSearch and Reef IQ programs in Australia. In 2014, Reef Check designed a new "immersion learning" program and tested it in Haiti, training kids to swim, snorkel, and start to learn marine biology, a field entirely left out of Haitian schools.
  • SciGirls

    In 2009, Reef Check's California program won an Emmy Award for the Ocean Ecosystems episode of SciGirls, a series where viewers follow teams of middle school girls and their mentors as they create their own inquiry-based investigations of the environment, technology, engineering, animal behavior and health. Two sisters joined Reef Check's Colleen Wisniewski on Catalina Island, snorkeling and diving at various locations and collecting data using a modified survey protocol.

Achievements in Conservation

  • Marine Protected Areas

    Reef Check recently completed surveys of over 1000 km of Haiti's coast and coral reefs. The data collected was used to make recommendations on which areas of Haiti would be best for Marine Protected Area (MPA) status. In 2013, the government of Haiti declared two sets of MPAs, which will allow fish to grow, reproduce, and eat the algae smothering corals to allow the coral reefs to return to their former glory.
  • On the other end of Hispaniola Island, Reef Check Dominican Republic (RCDR) has shown how to turn a former "paper park" into a well-functioning Marine Protected Area producing both ecological and economic solutions at La Caleta. With a shared management model, RCDR integrated community members into the park's management, as well as created a new and better alternative to destructive fishing for fishermen through eco-tourism (snorkel and kayak), thus providing the basis for a more sustainable outcome for both the park and the fishermen. The fishermen are now the biggest supporters of La Caleta.

    Reef Check has also been instrumental in developing MPAs in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Marine Life Protection Act

  • As California has implemented a statewide network of marine protected areas (MPAs), Reef Check California has partnered with state agencies, the Ocean Science Trust, Ocean Protection Council and other monitoring programs to establish ecological baselines for the marine environment as MPAs were established consecutively in four regions of the state.

    Reef Check has monitored rocky reefs and kelp forests inside and outside of MPAs in all regions and has continued long-term monitoring of these sites. This statewide MPA monitoring effort has led to one of the geographically largest long-term monitoring data sets of the rocky reef and kelp forest ecosystem in California. More about Reef Check's involvement in the MLPA MPA baseline monitoring can be found here.


  • St Andrews Prize for the Environment

    In 2014, Reef Check was named one of three finalists for the prestigious St Andrews Prize for the Environment. The Prize is a joint environmental initiative by the University of St Andrews in Scotland and independent exploration and production company ConocoPhillips, which aims to find practical solutions to environmental challenges from around the globe.

  • Katerva Award

    In 2012, Reef Check won the global Katerva Award for Ecosystem Conservation for its innovative citizen scientist reef monitoring and conservation work. The Katerva Award is billed as the Nobel Prize in sustainability, where "the best ideas on the planet are identified, refined and accelerated for global impact.